Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.
Q. Is it time to lower expectations for the Patriots? -- Avi (Brooklyn, New York)
If you're thinking Super Bowl right now, I'd say yes, it's time to lower your expectations and get back to focusing on what's going on within the AFC East. You have three teams that are 2-2. I think it's going to turn out to be a competitive race.
Also, it's time to lower your expectations offensively and raise them defensively. I don't know what can be fixed right now offensively when you have offensive line problems like they have. When you think your two offensive tackles might show you some good play, and they're not doing that. Then with two rookies in there, and a rotation they tried to implement -- Nate Solder's out, Solder's in; Ryan Wendell comes in and plays guard when he was your starting center for two years. They have major problems up front.
I'm going to tell you this: Even if they had Wes Welker, Randy Moss and whatever offensive weapons you want to name, they'd still be struggling, because they can't block. As much as you want offensive production, football on offense is about blocking first. If you can't run the ball or protect, you'll never a get a chance to see anything else.
Q. Consider this: Maybe the talent level on this team is just not up to par. Everyone looks for complex answers, but maybe the simple answer is that the Patriots are not a very good team. They have shown that three out of four games. A bad pattern is developing. -- Paul (Kenosha, Wisconsin)
A. You're right, Paul. Going forward, this is what I feel has to happen. I don't know how much improvement you'll see offensively. To me, it all starts with the offensive line. Not just with the Patriots, but with offensive football in general.
When you have an offense like the Patriots' that is challenged by a lack of talent at receiver, and your best weapons are inside threats (Julian Edelman from the slot and Rob Gronkowski from tight end), to best use them is off of play-action. If you have play-action, you have to be able to run the ball. When you look at some of the best teams in the league running the football, they have some of the best offensive lines. Right now, if you can't get that running game going and the offensive line is struggling, you're looking at an offense that will struggle the rest of the year.
This needs to become a defensively dominated team. It's going to put more pressure on the defense, but if another game happens like last night when they don't have a takeaway, that's a recipe for disaster.
You're also going to need a lot of help from your special teams. It's going to have to be a true complementary football team. You see a punt and it's a touchback, I sort of cringed at that because I know this team needs that help -- to pin a team deep, give the defense a chance to get the three-and-out, and then maybe get the ball at midfield. That's what this team is turning into.
As long as they can't block anyone up front, they need help elsewhere, and the defense will need to produce multiple turnovers.
Q. I'll join ESPN analyst Steve Young and ask: Why did Bill Belichick hang Tom Brady out to dry with an offensive line this bad? I know there are many other problems like no receivers or defensive tackles, but Brady was the one thing he could count on and he's completely nullified him. Can he get Scott Pioli back to handle personnel for him? -- B. Jones (Punta Gorda, Florida)
A. For this team right now, I feel there were errors made. The two errors were: 1. Trading Logan Mankins; 2. Drafting Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. As excited as some may be watching Garoppolo in the preseason (and even last night), for this team right now, it could have used an offensive lineman with that second-round pick -- especially if you knew trading Mankins was a possibility.
Garoppolo was sacked once last night, and I don't care how much younger you are than Brady, or how much more athletic you may be in escaping the rush, that sack was a prime example of "If you can't block, it doesn't matter who you have back there."
Q. It's time to start questioning Josh McDaniels and the play calling ... big time. Your thoughts? -- Ken (Long Island, New York)
A. The most discouraging thing for me last night when you think about the play calling is this: They're starting to call the game like they know they can't block anyone up front. They start the game in spread formation, shotgun, and get the ball out as soon as possible. Try to run a draw here, or a draw there, but there is no way they want the ball in Brady's hands for more than two seconds.
Not only is the offensive line struggling, but McDaniels is calling a game acknowledging that the line can't protect the quarterback.
Q. Tedy, do you believe what ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said about the Patriots not trying to win a Super Bowl, but just trying to make the playoffs to fill the stadium and make money? I can totally see it and believe it. But as a player who once played for the organization, is it true? -- Steven (New York)
A. If you believe that statement, you're a fool. The goal within this organization is to always win a championship. There was also discussion last night about not doing enough to give Tom Brady enough weapons. I've seen Brady do more with less offensive talent. Past successful teams in this organization were built similarly to this one -- with an attempt to be defense-oriented. This offseason, they went out with an attempt to be better on the defensive side of the ball. There have been talented teams in this organization who don't have any rings to show for it.
The biggest problem is not weapons for Tom Brady. The biggest problem is the offensive line. The way Tom made those WRs look good in the past was because he had time to do so. They got the play-action passing game going. I just don't know how successful you can be with a rookie at center and right guard, and somebody playing left guard that is normally a right guard.
Q. Do you think these past four games have been a fluke, or do you believe the Patriots will turn things around? The Pats usually turn things around after one bad game, but now it has been four (besides maybe Minnesota). -- Matt (Boston)
A. I don't think Minnesota was a realistic test either, Matt. The Patriots were one holding call away from possibly losing to the Raiders. I look at the games they struggled and it's about losing the line of scrimmage -- can't block the Dolphins, had problems against the Raiders, as well as the Chiefs.
Can they turn it around? I think it's going to be hard. Very hard. The Bengals' defensive front is outstanding. They are coming in after a bye week and will be ready to go Sunday night at Gillette. Then you look down the schedule and see a lot of good defensive fronts. There is a long way to go for the Patriots.
Q. Tedy, I'm totally confused. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins inactive? It wasn't long ago that Brady was talking about how good "KT" was doing. What's your take on this? It's not like the passing game has been on fire this year. -- Scott (North Carolina)
A. I'm getting a lot of questions about Dobson and Thompkins. We're through four games and I'm going to bottom-line it for you: The reason they aren't active is because they aren't good enough yet. To wish for an answer, and to think it's going to come from those players who haven't given the coaches enough evidence to put them on the field, I'd say "move on."
Q. Tedy, Dobson and Thompkins were inactive. What's going on? Does Dobson stink that much? -- Matt (Scarborough, Maine)
A. I already addressed the Dobson/Thompkins issue for now. I can't put it any more clearly than that right now -- they're just not good enough. The big question I have is "Where's Tim Wright?" This is a player that should be able to help -- a bigger target for Brady inside the numbers. The fact that they chose not to use the Gronkowski/Wright tight end combination is something I can't figure out.
Q. Hi Tedy, what do you think about fixing the offensive line by putting one tight end in the wall on every snap? -- Huba (Hungary)
A. I understand what you're trying to say about using a tight end in protection. Using a tight end on the edge would help, but one of the main problems is that your interior line isn't holding up. You don't just line up a tight behind your guard and say, "I'll help you get this guy." That doesn't happen.
Those three on the interior have to figure out a way ... and you know you'll have a rusher like Justin Houston who will be lined up inside, it's a problem they have no solution for. If the tackle helps, what about the edge rusher on the outside? If you keep Gronkowski in, you're taking away your No. 1 threat in the passing game outside of Julian Edelman.
Q. Matthew Slater is a beast on punt coverage! What makes him so good at it? -- Billy (Los Angeles)
A. There is a certain mentality that you must have to play punt-team gunner. You can put the fastest, biggest guy out there, but if he doesn't have the toughness or desire to want to beat a double team and still make a tackle, it's not going to happen. Slater may be the toughest player on the team.